Vera Dreams of the Sea (2021)

November 9th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Katrina Krasniqi | Drama, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia. 87 mins.

The evocative title of this confident feature debut from Kosovo’s Katrina Krasniqi belies the toughness of the heroine in a family drama focusing on inheritance and male dominance. Vera (played with restraint by Teuta Ajdini Jegeni) is a calm but resolute woman who is not to be messed with, particularly when it comes to losing her home.

Vera is swift to point out that the only thing she has ever inherited is her bread-winning ability as a sign language translator, a talent that no one can steal, and gives her economic and personal freedom. She works for a TV news channel and lives in old-fashioned but comfortable surroundings in Prishtina with her husband, retired judge Fatmiri (Xhevat Qorraj).

But when he suddenly commits suicide, Vera faces the threat of homelessness due to Albania’s patriarchal society dictating that males automatically inherit. This taut character drama is a stinging indictment on a culture that places men at the head of the queue before women and children. After the funeral, Vera’s husband’s cousin, Ahmeti (Astrit Kabashi), shamelessly asserts how close he was to Fatmiri, so much so the judge had left him the family house. His side of the story is then endorsed by a disdainful crew of ‘village elders’ who refuse to countenance Vera’s righteous claim on the property. A series of sinister threats then ensue.

Vera’s daughter, Sara (Alketa Sylaj), is a single mother struggling for financial security of her own, which puts her at a disadvantage, confidence-wise, when auditioning for a part which she fails to land in the feature’s ‘play within a film’ structure.

Vera is of the old school of Kosovo women; keeping her own counsel, quietly firm and  pragmatic, unlike the strung-out and emotional Sara. But in private she does shed a tear at the injustice of her predicament, while driving back on the brand new Prishtina-Skopje highway (a nod to the nation’s economic future that has clearly come at a price).

And she will work things to her advantage in the satisfying conclusion, proving her a force to be reckoned with in Doruntina’ Basha’s refined screenplay where a great deal happens behind closed doors. Vera’s emotional outlet comes in her dreams where she sees herself drowning in the titular sea, a potent motif with its clear implications. Another powerful scene pictures Vera and Ahmeti in a cafe for the deaf, where she states her argument loud and clear, and in no uncertain terms. MT

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